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Room to Recover -- Shaky Acres gives substance abusers a place to stay while sobering up
 Matt Zalaznick -  Independent Re-Typed by Kishm Skeete  

"Susie," a 56-year-old recovering alcoholic, said her drinking got so bad after hurricane Marilyn she stopped eating because it would cause her to throw-up and lose her buzz. "I crossed that invisible line where you drink because you have to, not because you want to, said "Susie" who has been living at Shaky Acres facility in Lindberg Bay for about 18 months.  "After Marilyn, I just said f-k it. I lived to drink and drank to live," she said. "I needed a drink just to get out the door, just to put the key in the car door, just to get steady enough to do anything."

"Bill" 64, said drinking cost him his job, two families, his home, his self-esteem, and almost his life. "I spent eight and a half months in a crack house with no roof," he said. Your life becomes focused on being f-ked up, staying inebriated. Then you lose your self-respect and there's a lot of guilt. "I was drinking out of fear because I couldn't face reality, I couldn't face the public."

"Bill and Susie" not their real names said Shaky Acres saved their lives. 

Shaky Acres is nonprofit organization operating since 1982. The operation has three buildings to house recovering drug addicts and alcoholics; a women's facility and long-term residence in Lindberg Bay and a men's facility in Unity Lodge on Fireburn hill. 

The key to Shaky Acres is that it's residence must stay sober and in treatment. "Shaky Acres offers residence to people who are willing to be in a program of recovery," said John Dowds, director of Shaky Acres. "We don't provide the program, AA or NA provides the program. We provide supportive services like food and donated clothing. "Alcoholic's Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous hold meetings as often as three times a day. There's no exception. They have to go to meetings every day, keep themselves and their area hygienically clean, and they help to keep up the house, the yard, the kitchen, Dowds said. For some of them, it can be a huge job. 

Shaky Acres is a low stress environment where recovering addicts can concentrate on getting better, said one resident currently in recovery. "People come in here and they don't have to worry about rent. We suggest they don't go out and get a job right away," he said. "IT'S A NON PRESSURE ENVIORMENT." The absence of rent gives Shaky Acres residents time to save money, Dowds added.  The cost of living in St. Thomas is high. The people need to be able to save while they're in recovery because they can't afford security deposit and all the utilities down payments," he said. The support the residents provide each other is one of the most valuable things a person receives at Shaky Acres, the resident said. "A person has to find out they're not alone," Dowds said. "They find out that other people have faced the same dilemmas and faced them standing up." 

The most common ways people get to Shaky Acres is through a referral from a hospital, usually either the emergency room or the psychological ward, or by word of mouth. "When they arrive, we provide them with a bed, with clothing, with nutrition, which is extremely important.  In fact it can be life saving when a person has been on the street and hasn't been getting any medical attention, Dowds said. 

As soon as a person moves into Shaky Acres, he or she is sent to an AA or NA meeting. During the fist months, a new resident is expected to go to three meetings a day. Most residents begin working after they have stayed few months, Dowds said. "We recommend a person stay about a year, "he said. "If they need additional time, they can move into the long-term facility. "A drinking binge may result in a resident being thrown out. But that does not mean a person can't return, Dowds said.

People may come in and catch it the first time but that's rare. They usually have to come in several times. But they get it.  By "get it," Dowds mean staying sober. And Shaky Acres boasts an exceptional success rate-80 percent of residents who stay at least a year, make a productive reentry to the community. "Shaky Acres started out in a need in the community, it didn't come from some place, Dowds said. "And it evolved into what it is today because of a continuing community need. "Shacky Acres began 16 years ago with one floor and four beds. Now it has three buildings and 33 beds. In all those years there's never been a vacancy, Dowds said. "But we've never had enough beds, we've never been funded well enough and we've never been able to grow commensurate to the needs of the community, "he said.